Scott, Anne Firor
SCOTT, Anne Firor
Born 24 April 1921, Montezuma, Georgia
Daughter of John W. and Mary Moss Firor; married Andrew M. Scott, 1947; children: Rebecca, David, Donald
Historian Anne Firor Scott has a unique perspective on remembering when women received suffrage in the United States. Born nine months after the suffrage amendment passed, Scott and women's right to vote came into being nearly at the same time. As the only girl among four siblings, Scott was never taught that girls were inferior. Only when she was in college did a favorite professor warn her that being female might limit her opportunities. Her parents, however, set out to give her every opportunity. Her mother was a full-time homemaker and her father was a college professor. An early influence on Anne was reading. Her father would read aloud to his children. But rather than reading them children's books, he read them his favorites.
This emphasis on the printed word would stand Scott in good stead. She did not set out to be a historian or educator. In her autobiographical essay, "A Historian's Odyssey," Scott read back through her journals, which by 1984 numbered 20 volumes, to examine her choices. She realized that she came to history by chance. "If my journal is to be believed," she wrote, "I went out into the world in 1940 in search of fame, fortune, and a husband, in no particular order. As to how that search was to be conducted the journal is significantly silent. It was very much a matter of what might turn up."
Scott attended the University of Georgia and graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1941. After graduation, she held a job at IBM and was briefly enrolled in a graduate program for personnel managers. It was a U.S. Congressional internship that marked a pivotal juncture; her internship responsibilities included writing speeches and listening to politicians talking, both of which had a tremendous impact on her. She later wrote, "[The experiences] made me so painfully aware of my ignorance that I went back to school." She chose Northwestern University, where she earned a master's degree in political science. She then took a job with the National League of Women Voters, married, and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. She enrolled in the American Civilization program at Harvard because it "seemed to have few requirements but plenty of scope." Before she could finish her dissertation, her husband, who had already finished his degree, secured a job in Washington, D.C. and they moved. Scott mused years later, "All our planning was for his career; it did not occur to me to think this odd." Seven years and three children later, she finished her dissertation and took a job teaching history at Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania.
While Scott's decision to study history may have been indirect, her specialization in the study of women's history was not accidental. Her maternal grandmother had worked for the League of Women Voters. At the age of twenty-three, Scott decided to write a history of women, beginning with Eve. These interests and influences led her to research the history of women of the American South. She soon found "there was almost no historiographical tradition and no network of established scholars. My temerity rested not on courage but on ignorance; if I had known what was involved I might never have begun." Her "ignorance" resulted in her first book, The Southern Lady (1970), now considered a classic in the field of women's history.
After her temporary appointments at Haverford College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she was hired as assistant professor of history at Duke University. In 1980 she earned the distinguished rank of W. K. Boyd Professor of History and in 1991 W. K. Boyd Professor of History Emerita. The recipient of many fellowships, prizes, and honorary degrees, Scott was awarded a university medal from Duke in 1994, a Berkshire Conference Prize in 1980, and honorary degrees from Queens College, Northwestern University, Radcliffe College, and the University of the South.
The author of numerous articles, chapters for books and introductions to the work of other scholars, as well as her own books, Scott is best known as one of the first historians of U.S. women. She is clear in remembering those who went before her. In Unheard Voices: The First Historians of Southern Women (1993), she reflected, "It is impossible to measure the cost to the world of scholarship of their marginality (and that of so many other), or the cost to themselves." Scott tried to mitigate this cost for subsequent generations of women historians in service to the profession. She served as president of the Organization of American Historians and president of the Southern Historical Association, and on the advisory boards of the Schlesinger Library, the Princeton University Department of History, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
The American Woman: Who Was She? (1970). One Half the People (with A. M. Scott 1975). Making the Invisible Woman Visible (1984). Virginia Women: The First Hundred Years (with S. Lebsock (1988). Natural Allies: Women's Associations in American History (1991).
American Women Historians, 1700s-1990s: A Biographical Dictionary (1996). CA (1973).